Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lamb Chili with White Beans and Oregano

I love a good bowl of chili (who doesn’t?) but when I make it at home I tend to use chicken or ground turkey. Time to shake things up with some lamb! This chili is packed with flavor and will keep you nice and toasty when it’s cold outside.

Lamb Chili with White Beans and Oregano 
1 pound ground lamb
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups cooked white beans*
2 cups beef broth
¼ cup fresh oregano, plus extra for garnish
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Crumbled feta (optional)

*A note on the beans: I made my own pot of beans, but if you're going the canned route, two 15-ounce cans will work just fine. 

Brown lamb In a large pot over medium-high heat until meat is thoroughly cooked. Transfer meat to plate or bowl lined with a paper towel.

Add the onion, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder and coriander to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 or 5 minutes. Return lamb to the pot and add beans, broth, oregano and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the lemon juice. Garnish with oregano and feta and enjoy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Make-Fast Mondays: Garlic Chicken Stir Fry with Cashews

Stir-fry dishes are such a great meal when you want something fresh, fast and flavorful. Just chop up some chicken and veggies, whisk together a sauce, toss everything in the pan and a few minutes later you’ve got dinner on the table.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry with Cashews 
For the sauce:
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon agave syrup (honey will also work)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon white pepper

For the stir fry:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 medium zucchini, diced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus extra for garnish
½ cup cashews

Combine broth, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, cornstarch, agave syrup, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, chili oil, oyster sauce, ginger and white pepper in a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in large skillet (wok or pan will also work!) over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Transfer chicken to a dish and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are slightly softened. Add the chicken and cashews to the skillet. Stir in the sauce and let everything simmer for 1-2 minutes, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Garnish with additional red pepper flakes and serve with rice or enjoy as-is!

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven’s Kung Pao Chicken recipe

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Scalloped Potatoes with Mushrooms and Thyme

I looooove rich, super-cheesy dish scalloped potatoes. What I don’t love is imagining how many miles I’ll need to run to burn off just one helping. The next time you get a hankering for scalloped potatoes, give this recipe a try. My version omits the cheese but is rich in flavor thanks to a low-fat sauce featuring plenty of fresh thyme and garlic. Working mushrooms into the mix also lightens things up a bit by making this dish a little less starchy.

Scalloped Potatoes with Mushrooms and Thyme 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 ½ cups nonfat milk
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
1 pound white potatoes, sliced thin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for a minute, until fragrant. Whisk in the milk, flour and thyme. Cook sauce, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

In an 8-by-8 square baking dish, arrange ⅓ of the potatoes in the dish, followed by ½ of the mushrooms, a little salt and pepper and a light drizzle of the sauce; repeat once more. Arrange remaining ⅓ potatoes on top and pour remaining sauce over potatoes. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover for another 10-15 minutes for a total bake time of 40-45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cabbage Rolls with Sausage and Brown Rice

Have you ever made cabbage rolls? This is something I always wanted to try but kept putting off because I thought it might be messy and laborious. Yes, it does take a little time, but I’m glad I finally got around to it, because it’s a lot of fun and the end result is so tasty and comforting on a chilly fall night.

Cabbage Rolls with Sausage and Brown Rice
1 head savoy cabbage, 12 outer leaves removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
½ cup cooked brown rice
1 large egg, beaten
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
⅓ cup grated Parmesan
1 cup chicken broth, heated
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Put the whole leaves in the pot and boil for 1 minute, then place under cold running water and dry.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, thyme and pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until onion is tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the sausage, rice, egg and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. 

Without cutting through the cabbage leaves, pare down the rib on the outside surface so it’s the same thickness as the leaf. Spoon ¼ cup of the mixture into the base of each leaf. Starting from the bottom, roll the leaf one turn, fold the sides in and finish rolling. Place the stuffed leaves, seam side down, in a glass baking dish. Add heated broth to the dish, pour tomatoes over the stuffed leaves and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes, remove from oven, and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from Cooking from the Farmers’ Market by Jodi Liano and Tasha DeSerio

Monday, October 26, 2015

Make-Fast Mondays: Grilled Fish Tacos

The only thing better than welcoming out-of-town visitors is welcoming out-of-town visitors who show up with a cooler full of fish! Our friends Bill and Jamie recently went to Alaska for a fishing trip and came back with a ton of salmon and rockfish, some of which they generously shared with us. The rockfish worked great for these fast, fresh fish tacos.

Grilled Fish Tacos 
1 pound rockfish (or other white fish such as cod or halibut)
1 ½ teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 corn tortillas, warmed*

Suggested garnishes: lime wedges, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced green onion, avocado, hot sauce, cilantro

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Place fish in baking dish. Whisk together ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lime juice and olive oil and pour over fish. Refrigerate and let marinade for at least 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the grill. Grill the fish for 4 minutes and flip it, cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Remove fish from the grill and flake it with a fork. Distribute the fish between the tortillas and top with all your favorite garnishes.

*A note on the tortillas: I’ve warmed my tortillas a couple different ways and have been happy with the results. Depending on your preference, you could try warm them in a frying pan over medium high heat for a couple minutes, or toss them on the grill for a moment once you're done cooking the fish.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Great Green Smoothie Experiment

I’ve become quite the lean, mean, green smoothie-making machine. Smoothies are no stranger to our breakfast routine, but in the past they’ve been heavy on the fruit. Well, times are a-changing and we’re trying to work more vegetables into the mix. A few days I brought home a cornucopia of produce and started what we’ll call The Great Green Smoothie Experiment -- tossing a different mix of vegetables and fruit into the blender each morning aiming to create something that doesn’t taste like a sippable salad. We’re three weeks in and no epic fails yet!

A few notes about this ongoing quest for green-smoothie greatness:

  1. Don’t overthink it or worry about exact measurements when adding your ingredients to the blender. 
  2. A little prep work goes a long way. If you’re making smoothies every morning, spend a few minutes cleaning, peeling and chopping your ingredients in advance so all you need to do in the morning is throw some goodies in the blender. 
  3. Water is your friend. No need for juice when you’re working with flavorful fresh fruits and vegetables! 
  4. Each of the following recipes yields about 32 ounces (enough for two substantial smoothies). 
  5. The ingredients for these smoothies vary but the directions remain the same: combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. 

Green Smoothie No. 1 
1 ½ cups cold water
1 green apple, cored and sliced
1 cucumber, peeled
1 tablespoon peeled ginger
1 tablespoon flax seeds
2 handfuls green kale
2 handfuls spinach

Green Smoothie No. 2 
1 ½ cups cold water
1 navel orange, peeled
1 banana, peeled
1-2 tablespoons peeled ginger
1 cucumber, peeled
4 handfuls spinach
4 romaine leaves

Green Smoothie No. 3 
2 cups cold water
1 red apple, cored and sliced
1 Asian pear, cored and sliced
½ cucumber, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
4 handfuls spinach

Green Smoothie No. 4 
1 cup cold water
1 red apple, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon peeled ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
2 stalks celery
4 handfuls spinach
2 romaine leaves

Green Smoothie No. 5 
1 cup cold water
1 red apple, cored and sliced
1 stalk celery
1 banana, peeled
4 handfuls green kale
1 tablespoon flax seeds
Splash of lemon juice

What goes into your favorite green smoothie?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mega Mushroom Risotto with Peas and Parmesan

Don’t like mushrooms? What’s wrong with you? Try this dish and you’ll start singing a different ‘shroomy tune.

Mega Mushroom Risotto with Peas and Parmesan 
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
¼ cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
10 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to sprinkle on top
Salt and pepper, to taste

Put the porcini in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Soak for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re softened. Use a slotted spoon to transfer porcini to a cutting board and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 3 or 4 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until almost evaporated (this only takes a minute, tops). Reduce heat to low-medium and add porcini, 1 cup broth and the mushroom liquid (leave behind any sediment). Continue adding broth ½ cup at a time and cook, consistently stirring, until rice has absorbed the broth. Stir in sliced creminis after 20 minutes. Cook until the rice is creamy but still al dente, about 25-30 minutes (it’s OK if you don’t use the full amount of broth -- just keep adding broth until you reach a desired consistency). Stir in peas and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Make-Fast Mondays: Curried Chicken Burgers with Mango Chutney

The next time you want a burger but want to go for something a little less conventional than your trusty beef patty with lettuce, tomato and cheese, give these flavor-packed chicken wonders a try.

Curried Chicken Burgers with Mango Chutney 
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon yellow curry powder, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup plain fat free yogurt
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, sliced
8 tablespoons mango chutney, divided
Four sandwich thins (whole-wheat buns would also work), toasted
Garnishes: sliced English cucumber and red bell pepper

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons curry powder and minced garlic in a medium bowl. Shape into four patties.

Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, green onions and remaining curry powder together to create curried yogurt sauce. Cook burgers 5-7 minutes on each side, until meat is completely cooked through. Serve the burgers on sandwich thins, topping each patty with two tablespoons of chutney, a healthy spoonful of the curried yogurt sauce, and sliced bell pepper and cucumber.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Shrimp Enchiladas with Spinach and Goat Cheese

There are days when I crave an enchilada oozing with melted cheddar and covered with red sauce. But then there are days (and enchiladas) like this, and they’re just as delicious.

Shrimp Enchiladas with Spinach and Goat Cheese 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 7-ounce can diced green chiles
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed, chopped
6 ounces baby spinach, chopped
1 28-ounce can green chile enchilada sauce
3 ounces chevre (soft goat cheese)
12 corn tortillas
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, cumin and oregano and sauté until tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add shrimp and chiles and cook until shrimp are pink. Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Use a butter knife or spoon to crumble the chevre over the shrimp mixture.

Warm enchilada sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Ladle enough enchilada sauce to lightly coat the bottom of a 9-by-13 glass baking dish. To assemble each enchilada, dip a tortilla in sauce until lightly coated, add a scoop of the shrimp mixture to the center of the tortilla, roll the tortilla and place, seam side down, in prepared baking dish. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and grated Monterey jack, cover with foil, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven, garnish with cilantro, and serve.

Vegetarian? Swap out the shrimp for a pound of sliced cremini mushrooms!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Salsa Chicken and Rice Casserole

Yes, I know there’s a good chance it’s hot where you are and the last thing you want to think about is firing up the oven, but hear me out. You won’t need to spend much active time in the kitchen to put this delicious dinner together -- start the chicken in your slow cooker before you go to bed and you’ll have a pot full of delicious, shredded, salsa-y goodness waiting for you in the morning, which you can then stash in the fridge until you’re ready to make dinner. Cook the rice while preheating the oven, quickly stir everything together once the rice is done, plunk everything into your trusty Pyrex baking dish, and pour yourself a frosty beverage to enjoy during those 20 minutes of bake time. No biggie, right?

Salsa Chicken and Rice Casserole 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 ½ cups of your favorite tomato-based salsa
¾ cup white rice
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup corn kernels
4 ounces sliced black olives
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 7 ¾ ounce can El Pato tomato sauce with jalapeño
7 ounces diced green chiles
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
⅓ cup sliced green onions

Combine chicken and salsa in slow cooker and cook, on low, for 8 hours. Shred chicken with fork and knife and stir to blend with salsa. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring water to boil in large saucepan. Add rice, reduce heat, cover and cook until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in chicken and salsa mixture, corn, olives, beans, tomato sauce, chiles, cumin and chili powder until everything’s combined. Transfer mixture to 9-by-13 baking dish. Top with shredded cheese, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Blueberry Bran Muffins

Bran muffins are something that take me back to childhood. It seems like my mom was always pulling a batch of muffins out of the oven, so good on their own but even better with a smear of butter. My take on my mom’s recipe calls for dried blueberries (it was always raisins in our house when I was growing up) and uses applesauce instead of shortening to lighten things up a bit.

Blueberry Bran Muffins 
1 cup bulk oat bran
1 cup boiling water
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 cups bran cereal
2 ½ cups flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir water and oat bran together in a small bowl. Mix applesauce and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs and continue mixing. Stir in buttermilk. Mix in oat bran, bran cereal, flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in blueberries and stir until mixed. Grease muffin tins with butter or cooking spray. Scoop ⅓ cup mix per muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes.

Yields 24 muffins.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New cookbooks earning a spot on the shelf

My cookbook collection has grown quite a bit in recent months thanks to all kinds of thoughtful gifts from friends and family. Here’s a quick rundown of the recipes I think make these books keepers.

The Newlywed Cookbook 
Favorite recipe so far: Southern Shrimp & Grits
Also want to try: Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Smoked Sea Salt

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook
Favorite recipe so far: Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Coleslaw
Also want to try: Spiced Chickpea Wraps with Tahini Dressing

One Pan, Two Plates 
Favorite recipe so far: Beef Stew in High Heels
Also want to try: Lemony Risotto with Asparagus, Carrots and Chives

Fifty Shades of Chicken 
Favorite recipe so far: Roasted Chicken with Hearts of Palm, Avocado and Orange Salsa
Also want to try: Jerk Chicken with Spices, Rum, Chiles, and Lime

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 
Favorite recipe so far: Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs and Smashed Chickpea Salad
Also want to try: Mushroom Bourguignon

What’s your favorite cookbook right now?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chocolate Banana Brunch Bread

This bread isn’t easily categorized. On one hand, it contains bananas and low-fat yogurt, so you might think it’s healthy enough to eat as a guilt-free breakfast. On the other hand, it’s full of chocolatey goodness and could easily pass for a dessert. So, my solution? Think of it as brunch bread -- a good way to start your day that feels like a special treat. It’s great with your morning coffee but is also quite enjoyable when paired with a mimosa or two.

Chocolate Banana Brunch Bread 
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup very ripe, mashed banana (2 large bananas worked for me)
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
¾ cup light brown sugar
Cooking spray or butter, to grease loaf pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease one 9-by-5 loaf pan. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in large bowl and stir or whisk to blend. In another bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, vanilla extract, egg and brown sugar, stirring until blended. Add dry ingredients to the bowl with banana mixture, stirring until everything’s nice and gooey. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve.

Adapted from A Couple Cooks, who adapted Smitten Kitchen’s recipe 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Make-Fast Mondays: Egg and Sausage Muffin-Tin Scrambles

Some people eat breakfast before heading to work, but I’m not really hungry until after I’m at my desk and checking email. This make-ahead breakfast is great whether you’re eating at home in your jammies or between morning meetings. They also hold well in the fridge for a day or two and take just about a minute to reheat and enjoy.

Egg and Sausage Muffin-Tin Scrambles 
8 ounces breakfast sausage (I used Jennie-O Lean Hot Turkey Breakfast Sausage)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
6 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
½ cup grated pepper jack

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet or frying pan, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in bell pepper and continue to cook for a couple more minutes to soften the pepper. Remove from heat. Beat eggs and milk together in large bowl. Stir in sausage, peppers and cheese. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray or butter. Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups (it’s about ¼ cup per muffin if you’re using a 12-cup pan). Bake for 20-25 minutes until knife inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chicken artichoke cassoulet, oh la la!

This isn’t the most traditional take on a French cassoulet you’ll find, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go the next time you’ve got a hankering for a delicious, hearty meal.

Chicken and Artichoke Cassoulet 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
1 cup pearl onions (or diced onion)
12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry white wine
3 cups prepared Great Northern beans (or other white beans)
½ cup diced Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the topping, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and melted butter in a bowl, stirring briefly with a fork until blended. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or other oven-safe dish (I used my Le Creuset braiser), heat olive oil over moderate heat. Add chicken, garlic and onions and cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked, stirring occasionally. Add broth, wine and beans to the pot. Stir in parsley and let everything simmer for a couple minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Cover cassoulet evenly with topping before transferring dish from stove (don’t forget to turn off your burner!) to oven. Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until topping is toasty brown. Remove from oven, garnish with remaining parsley and serve.

Would you rather make your own pot of beans for this recipe instead of busting out the can opener? 

White Beans
1 pound dry Great Northern beans, picked through and rinsed
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Soak beans in water (covered with 1-2 inches of water) in a medium pot for 8-10 hours. Drain beans in a colander. Return beans to pot and cover with 1 inch water. Add garlic, bay leaves and salt and bring pot to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours, until beans are tender.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Suffering from kale fatigue? Change it up with chard

I can only eat so much kale. Yes, I know it's good for you for all kinds of reasons, but sometimes it just feels like tedious work. The next time you’re eyeing leafy greens at the farmers market or grocery store, grab a bunch of chard and give this hearty soup a try.

Sausage, Bean and Chard Soup 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 medium yellow onion, diced
12 ounces smoked chicken sausage, sliced
2 cans Great Northern beans (or white beans of your preference)
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 bunch green chard, ribs removed, sliced into thin ribbons
Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or other large pot. Add garlic and onion and cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally. Add sausage to the pot and continue cooking for a couple more minutes. Increase heat and add broth, beans and bay leaf to pot. Bring contents to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf, stir in chard, cover and simmer until chard is soft, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sticking to resolution with superbly smoky soup

This is how Milk Pail Market, one of my favorite Mountain View grocery stores, encouraged visitors to kick off 2015:

That’s a resolution I can get behind every year, and sure enough I recently picked up some fantastic oak-smoked cheddar from these guys. Great on its own, but also quite delightful melted into this soup.

Smoky Cheddar Potato Soup 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced small, ¼ cup reserved
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced
48 ounces vegetable broth
2 cups grated smoked cheddar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic, onions, smoked paprika, cayenne and bell peppers and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Increase heat, add potatoes and broth to pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Using a ladle or glass measuring cup, scoop three cups of soup into blender. Puree soup and stir back into the pot. Remove soup from heat and stir in cheese until it’s melted into the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of red bell pepper.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Watch out, because these cookies are trouuuuuble

Start preheating the oven and pour yourself a nice frosty glass of milk, because it’s cookie time. It’s not often that I get the urge to bake cookies -- I’d much rather throw a lasagna in the oven -- but I’ve been playing around with this recipe in my mind for a little while. Glad I finally made it happen, as these cookies are so sweet and chewy and utterly addictive.

Oatmeal Pecan Butterscotch Cookies 
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup butterscotch chips

Place oven racks in upper third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Combine butter, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl, beating with electric mixer until fluffy before adding eggs, beating to mix thoroughly. Add flour, oats, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt, mixing on low speed until blended. Add pecans and butterscotch chips until incorporated. Drop batter by the tablespoon about 1-1½ inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies appear golden brown but are still soft. Remove cookie sheets from oven, letting cookies stand for 2-3 minutes before moving them to cooking racks.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ain’t no party like a Pyrex party

I’m getting into the habit of spending a lot of time in the kitchen at the start of the week. I like making one big mess and multiple meals in a marathon session because then it’s easier to focus on other projects and activities later in the week. It feels like I’m working smarter, not harder -- if I’m going to use a certain vegetable in multiple recipes, I’d rather do all the chopping at once and save myself the hassle of washing the cutting board and knife twice. With proper menu planning, it’s also a great way to get the most out of your groceries while everything’s fresh. Take, for example, the following two meals that I made, one after the other, a few days ago. Both recipes include chicken breast, cheese and green onion -- I was able to use a two-pound package of chicken, a 12-ounce bag of pre-shredded cheese and one bunch of onions without having to stash any pesky remnants in the fridge. Knocked out a good portion of my prep work while baking the chicken (375 degrees for 20-ish minutes) and tackled the dishes while my concoctions bubbled away in the oven.

First into the oven was a gooey cheese-and-rice dish, the recipe for which I got from my mother-in-law, Lynn (it’s a family classic). After that, the newest of my never-ending attempts at making things delicious by smothering everything in enchilada sauce.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake 
Adapted from a recipe that originally appeared in “Casseroles” by Beatrice Ojakangas 
2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup uncooked white rice
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 ounces sliced brown mushrooms
⅓ cup sliced green onions
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups nonfat milk
2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheese, divided
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil with bouillon, stirring until bouillon cubes are dissolved. Stir in rice, bring back to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. In another medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and marjoram until blended. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese and pimentos and stir until cheese melts. Stir in chicken and rice. Pour mixture into glass baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole 
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup corn kernels
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 4.25-ounce can chopped olives
1 pack La Tortilla Factory green chile tortillas (or 8 corn tortillas), cut into strips
1 28-ounce can red enchilada sauce
2 cups grated reduced-fat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix first six ingredients in medium bowl. In a 9-by-13 baking dish, layer all ingredients in the following manner: enchilada sauce (first layer should be enough to lightly coat the bottom of the baking dish), tortilla strips, chicken mixture, handful of cheese, healthy drizzle of sauce. Top the final layer of tortilla strips with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil, bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove dish from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.